HUNTINGTON, IN — Fifty years in the trailer sales business for the Zahm family all started when eldest son Jim brought home a pony named June in 1966. Paul and Lorene Zahm were already running the original Zahm family business, a large greenhouse just west of the city of Huntington, in northeast Indiana. The Zahms had purchased the greenhouse from his father Paul, Sr. on Paul, Jr.’s 30th birthday.
“Jim bought the pony,” said sister Janet, “and came walking down the road with her. We had an old corn crib and that’s where he put her. And then one morning he went down before school and she’d had a foal.”
Paul, Jr. and Lorene had six children, three boys and three girls listed in order of birth: Susie, Jim, Bill, Mark, Janet and Jane. Over the years all worked in the family greenhouse and most had horses too, with the younger four kids showing horses in 4-H. With the interest in horses, of course, the need for a trailer, tack and equipment followed and their business grew from that.
In 1967 Paul, Jr. decided to start selling horse trailers. Janet explained the history of their trailer sales business, “Well, with having the horses, you needed trailers to get them places. There was a trailer company called Diamond D that made trailers over at Roann, Indiana. Dad had talked to them and he had started to get a few trailers from them, but then there was another dealer who felt we were too close and so, of course, then they wouldn’t sell to us.”
Then there was the family trip when they went through 14 states in 14 days driving and staying in a camper. “We went through Oklahoma. There’s a little town called Madill, Oklahoma. Back in those years there was just a trailer factory every few blocks, just everywhere in that town. Dad went and talked to them, but at that time you had to buy them by the semi-load. He asked them, ‘Well, what if I get an order for one. They said, ‘Well that’s your problem. You will have to sell others or inventory them.’ So he said, ‘Well that’s not going to work,’” she continued. “So we came home and started looking around again and that’s when Dad found Rustler in Bristol, Indiana, and started selling Rustler trailers. They are out of business now; they have been out for many years. At the time they closed we still had them, but we had also had moved on to a few others too.”
Over the years they have stocked trailers from: Diamond D; Rustler; Bison; W&W; and S&H, both Oklahoma trailers; Sundowner, Sooner, Featherlite, and Lazy N trailers which were made in Warrensburg, Illinois, and which were custom trailers with deluxe living quarters.
“We sold the Lazy N trailers probably in the late 70s and early 80s. We sold a lot of those trailers to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They would drive here and buy them cheaper than they could to have them freighted to their local dealer. And, of course, going to Quarter Horse Congress was a big point of sale; that’s where a lot of people saw us or someone would get one and someone else would see it and buy one from us. They had the fancy living quarters with full bathroom and mattresses and everything,” said Janet.
The family has also had several other side businesses over time. They operated a tack shop for about 35 years, sold ponies and young horses for many years, and stood several Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa stallions for breeding.
Paul, Jr. retired from running the family business after Lorene died of cancer in 1992 although he did help out once in a while for several years after that. They had been married for 46 and a half years. Today three of his children run the business — Bill, Janet and Jane — and their repair shop manager, Todd Little, has been with them for over 25 years.
Oldest daughter Susie started keeping the books when she was just out of high school, but then her husband’s job took them to Southern Indiana for many years; she is now retired after many years working as a pharmacy technician. Jim married Cathy Pape, a horse trainer, who now specializes in draft horse training. Jim also owns and operates Zahm’s Excavating.
Son Mark purchased the greenhouse business 1977 and has recently retired having sold the greenhouse to a company from Fort Wayne which still operates the greenhouse at the old Zahm location.
Though Bill, Janet and Jane don’t have specific job titles, in general Bill is in charge of sales and helps in the shop when he can. Janet keeps the books and helps with sales and Jane is the receptionist. The ladies also help if needed when the guys are busy with selling parts and sometimes in the shop if a second pair of hands is needed.
CornPro is the main trailer brand they carry now. Janet listed the types of CornPro trailers that they carry, “They make the stock trailers, the flat beds, the dump trailers, and the hydraulic-tilt trailers which are very popular right now. We sell a lot of those. They do also make a horse trailer; they are step-ups. We can order them. The livestock trailers are so versatile, that a lot people have replaced their two-horse trailer with a stock trailer.
Corn Pro makes a smooth- skinned trailer that has Plexiglas tracking built into the sides, so you can just buy Plexiglas and slide it in to allow you to open or close up the slots in the sides as needed. We also have little low-profile trailers that you can haul hogs or sheep in.”
And they also sell Interstate brand enclosed cargo and dump trailers and Continental Cargo brand enclosed trailers, plus a wide variety of parts including B&W hitches and tires and rims from 8 inches up to 17.5 inches. “We’re selling a lot of these hydraulic-tilt trailer with 8,000-pound axles. So, they use a 17.5” tire which is a 16-ply tire, so you can get the full use of the axle rating,” explained Janet.
“Repairs are a very great part of our business,” said Janet. “It seems like when the weather’s not great and trailers aren’t selling as much, then people are having repairs done and that keeps us going. And remodeling and opening up the showroom up, and carrying the amount of parts that we do, has just really helped our business. Because, not only can Todd walk over and get usually everything that he needs [to do repairs in our shop], but most of our customers can come in and get everything that they need. We have a brake assembly for 7,000-pound axles, it is an import, but they are $47 apiece. We sell a lot of them and we usually stock 12 sets of those at a time. Todd has been here over 25 years. I mean, this business, you just can’t run it without him, because of everything he knows and everything that he can do.”
Zahm’s is also a dealer for All Steel Carports which come in several sizes. Zahm Trailer Sales will be hosting an open house to celebrate 50 years in business on Friday, June 30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will be serving hot dogs, chips, cake and drinks from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. And there will be drawings for gift certificates and gas cards. They invite customers old and new to come to join them in the celebration.
Zahm Trailer Sales is at 5019 River Road, Huntington, IN. Their phone number is 260-356-8322. Normal business hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Their website is www.zahmtrailersales.com and you can find them on Facebook as well.